Sunday, February 14, 2010

a response to the question of broken windows

in vancouver, residents are struggling to tolerate an exposure to radical politics. a demonstration on the second day of the olympics that saw a few corporate windows smashed created quite a backlash against all dissident groups in general. 

here is my facebook attempt to explain "a diversity of tactics" to a "vancouver friend".

a vancouver friend: strongly believes that legitimate, peaceful protesters lost all their credibility the moment they let those who use protests as an excuse to be violent attach themselves to a cause.
6 hours ago · Comment · Like

4 people like this.

Zev Tiefenbachi don't think that it's okay that coca-cola and rbc get to parade around the city advertising themselves as they effectively destroy many foundational aspects of a free and healthy society. these corporate goons do own the streets and are protected by gun-toting thugs. those corporate floats are what worry me and are undemocratic. these corporations and t heir henchman are the ones that are armed and do real damage and violence to us as society and to people abroad.
a bunch of black-blockers overturning newspaper boxes on our streets is a most miniscule expression of balance to counterattack the assault of corporatism that now pervades our public spaces.
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4 hours ago ·

a vancouver friend: I see your point Zev, but I can't agree that the black blockers balance anything. They're not just overturning newspaper boxes, they're throwing them into shop windows, they're carrying weapons and they're causing fear. There has to be a better way to "fight the man" than to cause violence. No one is going to be sympathetic to anything if the person passing the message is wearing a mask and holding a weapon. They're just terrorists and no better than the people who put bombs on planes.

4 hours ago

Zev Tiefenbach well. first, depends who is putting bombs on which planes. . . . let's be more specific because there's a long history of hi-jacking planes for a variety of political purposes. 

second, fighting capitalism is currently a very marginal activity in canada. i don't expect the black-block folks to expect much sympathy from the public formed of folks who are essentially capitalist by nature or habit.
third, the people wandering around carrying lethal weapons are the cops and the cops have a long history of using their weapons in ways that are very political and often bigoted. i think collectively, depending on your demographic, the cops are way more dangerous. 
fourth, breaking windows isn't violent. a window doesn't get hurt. it's destructive and indicative of an inherent disrespect for wealth of the "victim" company. that's the point. the analysis is that capitalism has waged a war against the people and benefits enormously in doing so, i'd suggest these folks are taking a tokenistic stand in this war. ultimately, if destructive actions against these symbols of capitalistic exploitation were common enough, it would undermine their ability to function.
i can see that you don't agree with a radical anti-capitalist position but, i think terms like "legitimate" or "credible" are very relative terms and, i would suggest that in your usage, they are applied with respect to how congruent the goal is within our present society. i would suggest that more radical positions are also credible and legitimate possibilities for socio-political organization and that it is reasonable to employ a diversity of tactics to achieve or articulate these visions.

21 minutes ago 

Zev Tiefenbach wow, sorry for the totally long post.


  1. Yes, guys, I'm very concerned about this debate as well. I have low-income friends in Vancouver who are not impressed at all with what the Games are doing to the street life of the city, and I am also extremely dubious about the whole commodification of athletic merit, etc. as I was a scholarship swimmer at the NCAA level while in university---but that's another blog. So when I saw the typically minimal and negative coverage of those street activists this week, they had my natural sympathy. But as I've witnessed at some amazing large demos in Montréal, it doesn't always take breaking stuff to make a point. But I very much agree with Zev's thoughtful discussion here, and being a refugee from the police-state that the US is now I couldn't agree more that the real danger is created by the police armed with tasers and worse. Thanks for posting, I'll read more when I can. Marie from Montréal

  2. I play hockey with some RCMP guy, he's in Vancouver right now.
    He's undercover.
    AKA, stirring some shit up.

    It's always the same thing, they are the ones starting the «violence».

  3. Hi Zev.
    Thanks so much for sharing this. It's all been a thought provoking read. Interesting to hear perspectives from "the other side of the classroom", as it were, among other things.
    When I came on here the picture in the top right was a photo of Mia and Ash from the women's march. Right behind them in the frame was my best friend from childhood. Curious and strange. Aaah, serendipity.
    Have a great weekend.

  4. congrats on another passover Wolf. The faith seems to celebrate so many instances of not getting ass-kicked again. Makes sense. Love to Mia, Ash and Hazel.

  5. always a pleasure to know that you're out there in the world danger. i'm hoping to spend some good time in the okanagan this summer and will look forward to seeing you then.

  6. hey zev this is meghan way back from concordia university days (maka's roomate). This is an interesting post, but I have to agree with your vancouver friend about a noon-violent protest. I am pretty sure I know the incident being discussed (people in balaclavas tossing objects through store windows?). I think this kind of behaviour is counter-productive and distracts from the messages being expressed by the protesters showing their identities and holding signs and chanting messages. It makes it easy for 'mainstream' people to dismiss all protesters of having a chip on their shoulder and no articulated message/alternative vision for how we want our society to be. newspaper boxes, to me, are a symptom of a healthy democracy; I can lament who owns the papers and how the published views are biased, but the fact that individuals in canada are free to publish news and to consume it is incredible. I think it is naive to perceive a newspaper box as a symbol of capitalism, and therefore destroy it in a symbolic act. I am sure Chinese people would love the freedom of browsing through non-government news.